And so begins my 43rd year of continuous weekly column writing. By my count that 2,184 columns done and this, the 2,185th, in the making. I think there’s been a couple of snafus during the 42 years when a column I wrote didn’t get published the week I wrote it, but, with a nod to my admittedly crumbling memory, I think I wrote a column every week — despite moving to another state and changing real jobs a time or two.
I freely admit, if I’d known when I started that I’d still be writing the column 43 years later, I’d have quit on the spot. But, that’s in retrospect and nobody gets to enjoy do-overs.
So, on balance, I have to admit that I’ve had a lot of fun and made a lot of friends — and a few critics — along the column-writing way. Most weeks it’s been relatively easy. Some weeks — like during the weeks of my parents’ deaths, or following the death of other family members, or friends — it’s been not so easy.
My weekly hopefully-mostly-humor column sparked my side career as a public speaker. As such, a lot of my enjoyable and educational travel in the U.S. and two Canadian provinces hinged on my column.
The changes I’ve witnessed in agriculture and society in general since my first column on February 5, 1974, is astonishing to look back on. To wit, here are a few of the major changes I’ve witnessed:
Computerized/electronic publishing pushed “hot type” and manual typewriters out of the picture.
The 1980s farm crisis and the rise and fall of the American Agriculture Movement.
The rise of the complete genetic modified organisms revolution.
The elimination, for a variety of reasons, of a huge chunk of small family farms.
The rise of the natural/organic foods movement.
The virtual elimination of economically-viable family-owned pork and poultry enterprises.
Farm equipment with “computer brains.”
A revolution in livestock performance testing.
The rise of mega-agriculture across the land.
The invention and use of agricultural drones.
Massive increases in grain crop yields.
Pendulum swings in livestock conformation judging standards.
The slow and seemingly inexorable economic decline of small rural communities.
Near-universal comfort cabs on farm tractors and motorized farm equipment — complete with air conditioning, heaters, and in-cab music.
The rise of the animal rights movement — PETA and U.S. Humane Society.
Litigation and/or federal involvement over farm/ranch odors, dust, smoke, and water.
The installation of the Conservation Reserve Program.
Metal buildings replacing wooden farm structures.
The rise of agricultural irrigation and the serious depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer in the High Plains.
The massive flooding in 1993 and the oppressive heat and drought of 2011-12.,
The change in agricultural research funding from state legislatures to federal grants.
Another change that is not related to agriculture is the creation of a verbal/linguistic minefield from rampant political correctness. This is true: I recently found myself in an on-line discussion about women’s basketball and I innocently used the term “gal.” I immediately got informed not so delicately that “gal” is a sexist term. That seemed strange to me as I identify myself as a “guy” and I sure don’t think of it as a sexist term.
I used to write my column with no thought given to political correctness. I still don’t pay PC much mind because I’m too old to care much anymore what anyone thinks about me or my writing — guys or gals. But, I will admit that PC crosses my mind on occasion when writing my column and I adjust accordingly.
The wild birds that I feed daily here at Damphewmore Acres are scarfing down as much grain as my chicken flock. I’d cut back on the free lunch for the birdies except that a covey of quail is among the eaters about every day. I don’t hunt those quail — just enjoy the watching.
One good friend and one good acquaintance passed from the Earth this week. Both were good people and we’ll miss them.
All my recent writing about my chickens prompted ol’ Willie Jay from Missouri to write: “I got a friend who hung Christmas lights in her chicken house and the hens started laying colored eggs. And, personally, I had a hen one time that if you put up a green flag, she laid green eggs; hang up a red flag, she laid red eggs. Whatever color flag you put up, she laid that color eggs. So, I put up an American flag just for fun and that old hen stripped all the gears in her aching cloaca.”
Enuf drivel to start my 43rd year. Have a good ‘un.